a Gull Pond Book, 2010, 212 pp

Reviewed by Norman E. Gough, S. Staffordshire, UK

The author, who also wrote Maud’s House, David Blackwood: Master Printer and Chips and Gravy, is from Elliston – formerly Bird Island Cove – in Newfoundland. The book, which is in the form of a long, nostalgic, free-flowing poem, is about his father, James. It opens with a messy account of the painful birth of ‘Jimmy’ to Newman and Alice Gough, which is not easy reading. There follows a rambling section entitled After Birth that is clearly a play on words, as long dream-like sequences impart some spiritual significance to the afterbirth. But after this the verbal fog begins to clear and there follows a charming account of childhood that includes activities at Christmas and other celebrations, when all pick up musical instruments and enjoy a good singsong. Jimmy’s fondness of his grandfather is particularly noteworthy. In time they move to Deer Lake and then to a more industrial area at Corner Brook known as Shacktown, so that Newman can get work. After Alice loses two babies, it’s no surprise that Jimmy cannot face the birth of a third because “First you open your heart and then they die and take a piece of your heart away.” But his sister Eileen does survive (see cover picture) and so the story ends well when – hand in hand – sister and brother walk out of the fog of childhood to emerge into the wide world of adulthood.

I am not well-versed in poetic style (no pun intended) and thus feel unqualified to offer any observations as to the quality of the work. Personally, I would prefer prose. But taken at its face value, it does give a colourful recollection of the author’s father Dr James Gough, who went on to become country doctor. He acknowledges help from his Aunt Eileen Louise Powell née Gough (1926-2016), his grandfather Newmann John Gough, and other family members including in Mildred Winsor née Gough (1918-2008) and Uncle George Stead.

A quick look-up suggests a fascinating family history: Newman John Gough (1896-1986) (pictured here), a WWI veteran who married Alice Stead (1898-1976) RN of Boston, was the son of James Gough (1853-1931) and Elizabeth Sarah Baker (1857-6 Sep 1902). James was the son of William Gough (1820-1910) who was notable for his red hair. It was William’s father John Gough (1793-1866) of Hennock, near Exmouth in Devon, who emigrated to Newfoundland where he married in 1819. John may have descended from Robert Goff (1662-1757) so it is probable that these Goffs were early settlers in Devon who took advantage of work associated with trade at the ports.1

This is just a fleeting insight into this Gough family, and it strikes me that the most exciting part of the story is still waiting to be told. Ships were sailing from the Devon ports to Newfoundland and Labrador as early as the 1500s. Who were the family members that went to sea and where were their origins? What exiting adventures did they have on their travels and what inspired John Gough to join the ‘Newfoundlanders’ and head off to the fishing centre at Bird Island Cove?

[1] Ancestry, Public Tree: Gough Family Tree , MR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>